All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Disappointment Thus Far in Spring Training
Spring training is a time for players in Major League Baseball to shake off the cobwebs, work themselves back into shape and regain their hitting strokes and pitching mechanics.
It's also a time for prospects to show they're ready to make the leap and deliver on the promise that led their teams to invest time and money into their development.
Thus far in the early going, there have been disappointments from both veterans and prospects alike.
Here is one player from each MLB team who has thus far registered disappointment in the eyes of his employers.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Didi Gregorius
Thwarted in his attempts to land either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers went to Plan B with the acquisition of prospect Didi Gregorius.
When Towers approached the Rangers about a possible Justin Upton deal that would involve either of the Rangers' shortstops, he was met with resistance.
Towers turned his sights on the Cincinnati Reds, acquiring Gregorius in a three-team trade that also involved the Cleveland Indians.
While Gregorius may not have been the Diamondbacks' starting shortstop on Opening Day, he was without a doubt looked upon as their shortstop of the future.
However, shortly after the trade, Gregorius felt pain in his right elbow when playing catch around Christmas. He just recently began playing catch again after he was immediately shut down by Arizona.
It's definitely a disappointment for the Diamondbacks, who were clearly hoping to get a glimpse of their future with Gregorius in camp. Now, Cliff Pennington is their likely Opening Day shortstop.
That in itself is disappointing.
Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla
After what can only be described as a disappointing 2012 season, Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla is thus far following up with another disconcerting effort thus far in spring training.
Through Monday's games in the Grapefruit League, Uggla, who hit just .220 with a career-low 19 home runs last season, is hitting just .143 (3-for-21) with 11 strikeouts. He struck out all four times he came to the plate on Sunday against the Washington Nationals.
Uggla still has $39 million remaining on the five-year deal he signed prior to the 2011 season. What the Braves have been seeing is certainly not what they had in mind.
Baltimore Orioles: Jair Jurrjens
The Baltimore Orioles signed former Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens to a minor league deal this offseason. The hope was that Jurrjens could return to the form that led him to be selected as an All-Star in 2011 after a tremendous first half.
However, in the early going, it doesn't appear that Jurrjens is anywhere close to regaining that form.
After going two innings and allowing one run, two hits and a walk in his first spring outing, Jurrjens was completely out of sorts in his next outing.
Facing the Minnesota Twins, Jurrjens threw 34 pitches in the first inning, only 13 of them for strikes. He walked three batters and admitted after the game that his mechanics were completely out of whack.
“[It’s] a mechanics issue,” Jurrjens told Eduardo A. Encina of the Washington Post. “I think having been in bad habits for a couple of years.”
Jurrjens referred to the knee injury he suffered in the second half of the 2011 season as the cause for his poor mechanics.
He will need to find a quick fix.
Boston Red Sox: Shane Victorino
New Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino has already joined Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but not before putting up goose eggs thus far in his spring training debut for his new team.
Victorino struggled, going 0-for-11 in five spring games. The Red Sox no doubt would have liked to have seen a lot more from him before he left the team for potentially up to 17 days.
Victorino is the fourth outfielder on Team USA's squad. While he'll likely see plenty of playing time, he won't be getting the everyday at-bats that the Sox would like to see early on.
Coming off a subpar 2012 campaign in which he hit just .229 against right-handed pitching, the Red Sox have to be disappointed that they can't see first hand whether or not Victorino can prove that stat was just an anomaly.
Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza was trying to work his way back after his 2012 season was shortened by right elbow injury.
Now, Garza could miss the first month of the regular season with a lat strain.
He originally strained the lat throwing live practice in late February. After being shut down for 10 days, Garza again felt pain in his side late last week.
It's another setback for the Cubs as they figure out what their plans are for Garza in the future.
If he can recover quickly and round back into form, the Cubs will have time to evaluate his progress and determine what his value could be at the trade deadline.
It's less likely that they'd offer him a long-term deal to stay in the Windy City, but the less time they have for evaluation, the longer Garza's odds are to remain a Cub.
Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn
Including Tuesday's exhibition against Team USA, Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn is now hitting .125 this spring.
While Dunn is not known for his tremendous skills as a high-average hitter, I'm pretty sure that hitting well below the Mendoza line has to be a cause for at least some concern.
At least Dunn isn't striking out in a prodigious manner—he's whiffed five times in 20 plate appearances.
Still, the White Sox will be looking for Dunn to at least hit .225 or so with his normal 35-40 home runs and 100 walks if they're to compete in the AL Central division this season.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton
With his 0-for-3 performance on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is now hitting a paltry .111 in early exhibition play.
Hamilton is now 2-for-18 with eight strikeouts in 20 plate appearances. He earned a bit of a shot from Reds manager Dusty Baker late last week.
Via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
He has no chance to do anything when he strikes out. Probably half of those have been looking. Anytime he puts it in play, there's a chance of something happening.
Hamilton hit .311 last year on his way to stealing a record 155 bases. However, he also posted a 25.6 percent strikeout rate. That absolutely needs to improve if he wants to be a productive leadoff hitter at the major league level.
A 40 percent strikeout rate in spring training thus far isn't helping his cause much.
Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez
For the Cleveland Indians to have success in 2013, they need resurgent seasons from their two top pitchers, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez thus far hasn't exactly shined in early spring action.
Jimenez gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings of work against the San Diego Padres on Saturday.
While the Indians and Jimenez will come out with sound bites saying that he got through his outing unscathed and that he was working on things, the Tribe also wants to start seeing the Jimenez that was among the best pitchers in the National League in the first half of the 2010 season.
That's the Jimenez the Indians need to see if they're to compete with the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central division.
Colorado Rockies: Tyler Colvin
The Colorado Rockies got tremendous production from reserve outfielder Tyler Colvin last season. In the absence of Michael Cuddyer—sidelined with an oblique injury—Colvin hit .290 with 18 HR and 72 RBI.
The Rockies lost Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and others last year, with all spending significant time on the disabled list. Colvin's production in his first year in Colorado following his trade from the Chicago Cubs was a definite bonus in a season that was forgettable.
It's way too early to get on Colvin for hitting just .133 in early spring training games thus far. But they'll need his productive bat once again, especially with a pitching staff that's expected to be among the worst in baseball.
Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon
The Detroit Tigers stood almost defiantly this past offseason when they declined to enter the free-agent market and find a closer to replace the departed Jose Valverde.
They instead opted to look for internal candidates, and general manager Dave Dombrowski strongly hinted that young Venezuelan fireballing right-hander Bruce Rondon would be their man.
Thus far, however, Rondon has done nothing to seize that opportunity.
Rondon has yet to throw a clean inning in four appearances, issuing five walks in 3.2 innings, along with a 7.36 ERA. It's the walks that have been the main concern—he issued almost as many walks (26) as hits (32) last season in 53 innings of work.
The coronation of Rondon as closer certainly won't happen this season if he can't command the strike zone.
Houston Astros: Jonathan Singleton
The Houston Astros got back a prized prospect when they dealt outfielder Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.
However, that prized prospect is now hovering on the sidelines courtesy of his massive stupidity.
Singleton got himself suspended for violating the minor league drug policy for a second time, earning himself a 50-game ban.
The drug he tested positive for? Marijuana.
Instead of impressing his employers and working hard at Osceola County Stadium, Singleton will be working in extended spring training and won't be eligible to play in a game until May 26.
He may not have made the major league roster before his suspension, but the lost opportunity to show off the skills to the new Astros brass is indeed a disappointment.
Kansas City Royals: Irving Falu
The Kansas City Royals have a battle going on to decide who their everyday second baseman will be to begin the season.
Chris Getz, Johnny Giavotella and Irving Falu are all bidding to win that job.
Falu is now participating for Puerto Rico in the WBC. Depending on how Puerto Rico fares in a tough Pool C that includes Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Falu could be lost to the Royals for up to 17 days.
That is valuable time when trying to decide who walks away with a job.
The Royals—and every other team for that matter—will lie through their teeth when saying they think the World Baseball Classic is a great thing.
It's not so good when jobs are on the line and candidates aren't in camp to win those jobs.
Los Angeles Angels: Nick Maronde
Nick Maronde made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Angels last September, looking sharp while posting a 1.50 ERA in 12 relief appearances. He put up an impressive 2.26 ERA across three minor league levels last season as well.
Maronde was definitely being looked upon as a prospect who could potentially earn a spot on the Angels pitching staff, but his performance thus far in early spring training games hasn't given the Angels much hope for that.
Maronde has posted a 17.18 ERA thus far in three appearances, allowing seven runs on eight hits with four walks in 3.2 innings.
For a team looking for depth in its pitching staff, Maronde hasn't done anything to improve his chances thus far.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Capuano
The Los Angeles Dodgers have quite a battle going on for the fifth and final slot in their starting rotation. So far, Chris Capuano's efforts haven't gotten him any closer to being awarded that opportunity.
Capuano had an outstanding first half last season for the Dodgers, posting a 9-4 record and 2.91 ERA. He faded after the All-Star break, however, registering a 3-8 record and 4.76 ERA.
Capuano thus far in two outings looks like he's continuing last year's second half, allowing six runs on seven hits in five innings of work.
Pitchers generally work toward building up arm strength and recapturing their mechanics after taking the winter off. In Capuano's case, he's also fighting for a job. His early performance isn't winning him that job.
Miami Marlins: Gorkys Hernandez
Gorkys Hernandez is trying hard to win the starting center fielder job with the Miami Marlins.
His success in doing so is crucial to his future—Hernandez is out of minor league options.
Included in the deal that sent first baseman Gaby Sanchez to the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, Hernandez's performance thus far is not what he or the Marlins were hoping for. Hernandez has just one hit in 13 at-bats (.077) in five spring games.
Hernandez has a game predicated on speed—with little power, it's important that he provides the Marlins with above-average on-base capabilities.
If he continues to fail to get on base, he'll fail in his efforts to win a roster spot.
Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford
Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford worked against his teammates on Tuesday.
Pitching for Team Canada in the WBC, Axford worked the ninth inning in an exhibition with the Brewers. He gave up two hits while striking out two in keeping his Brewers scoreless.
Axford had an up-and-down campaign last year after an outstanding season in 2011. He notched 35 saves last season, but with a 4.67 ERA.
Axford was a bit shaky early in Cactus League games as well this spring, posting a 13.50 ERA in three appearances, twice picking up losses.
With a revamped bullpen, Axford is expected to return to his 2011 form. The pieces haven't quite come together yet for him this spring.
Minnesota Twins: Vance Worley
The Minnesota Twins unloaded outfielder Ben Revere during the offseason, picking up a starting pitcher for the present—Vance Worley—and one for the future in Trevor May.
The present-day Worley hasn't quite yet shown that he can be a top-shelf starter, however.
In two appearances thus far, Worley has posted a 6.75 ERA, allowing three earned runs on eight hits in four innings, with opposing batters hitting .444 against him so far.
The Twins used a band-aid approach this offseason in an effort to fix their starting rotation, acquiring Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden. It was hoped that Worley would be better than a band-aid. He'll need to pick his efforts up considerably to make the Twins believe he's not just a stop-gap solution.
New York Mets: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
If Kirk Nieuwenhuis is trying to show the New York Mets that he's capable of being their everyday center fielder, he hasn't done a good job of convincing them thus far.
He got off to a blazing start last year, hitting .325 in April. He cooled off considerably as the months wore on, finally getting shelved in July after injuring his plantar fascia.
Nieuwenhuis was hitting just .056 (1-for-20) through his first seven games in spring training. He also suffered a bone bruise to his left knee while sliding the bases in a game against the Miami Marlins, likely setting him back for a few days as well.
With an outfield not considered to be a strong unit, Nieuwenhuis needs to show he can bounce back and return to the player that was the talk of the city last April.
New York Yankees: Eduardo Nunez
The New York Yankees don't expect reserve infielder Eduardo Nunez to be like Derek Jeter. But they expect him to be a valuable commodity for the team.
Nunez could play a critical role for the Yankees if Jeter's rehab from a fractured ankle doesn't allow him to be ready by Opening Day.
He is hitting .167 (3-for-18) thus far in seven spring games—certainly a small sample size. But if Jeter suffers any setback in his recovery, Nunez will be counted on to step it up in his absence.
He would give the Yankees a lot more confidence if he started hitting soon.
Oakland Athletics: Josh Donaldson
In a battle to win an everyday job, Oakland A's third baseman Josh Donaldson isn't helping his cause much in the early going this spring.
With Scott Sizemore and now Jed Lowrie in camp, Donaldson has competition for the job that he took hold of last year. Donaldson thus far is hitting a mere .050 (1-for-20) in seven games.
Sizemore was hit by a pitch in Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies, but X-rays revealed just a bone bruise, likely requiring just a few days' rest.
Donaldson still needs to break out of his current slump if he's to hold off Sizemore and any other competition for an everyday role.
Philadelphia Phillies: Erik Kratz
Courtesy of a 25-game suspension to be served by Carlos Ruiz at the beginning of the season, catcher Erik Kratz will hold down the position at the start of the regular season.
So far, Kratz hasn't exactly lit the world on fire with his offense in spring training.
He is hitting just .091 (1-for-11) in early Grapefruit Leagues, and he went 0-for-2 in an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.
Kratz won't hurt the Phillies if he doesn't hit like Ruiz in the first 25 games of the regular season. But at the same time, the Phillies don't want an automatic out at the bottom of their batting order, either.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Brad Hawpe
Attempting to revive his career after sitting out all of last season following Tommy John surgery, outfielder/first baseman Brad Hawpe is struggling to find his way this spring.
Hawpe, given a minor-league deal by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was considered a long shot to make the roster anyway, with the Pirates already deep in the outfield and at first.
So far, he hasn't done much to show he can help his new team. Hawpe is hitting just .083 with seven strikeouts in 12 at-bats.
Once considered a mainstay in the Colorado Rockies lineup for many years, Hawpe's career has certainly taken a downward turn. And he may not have much more time to prove otherwise.
San Diego Padres: Yasmani Grandal
Catcher Yasmani Grandal has continued to show the San Diego Padres that he can be a vital part of their offense.
After hitting .297 with eight home runs and 36 RBI in 60 games last season, Grandal has continued impressing, hitting .571 in five games this spring.
Unfortunately, he will be watching from the sidelines to start the season, courtesy of his 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy.
The Padres have to be disappointed in seeing what Grandal can do with the bat, only to have that bat not available for almost a third of the season.
San Francisco Giants: Ramon Ramirez
Ramon Ramirez had a successful two-year stint with the San Francisco Giants, posting a 2.07 ERA in 91 appearances.
He fled to New York, where he wasn't nearly as successful, posting a 4.24 ERA last season. Now, Ramirez is back with the Giants, hoping to latch on in a bullpen loaded with veterans.
His early spring outings haven't done much to convince the Giants he can help at this point.
Ramirez has allowed five runs on six hits in three innings thus far. With several pitchers battling for precious few slots, his performance isn't winning him a job.
Seattle Mariners: Jeremy Bonderman
At one time, Jeremy Bonderman was a rising young star in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Now, he's just trying to regain the form that allowed him to win at least 11 games in four consecutive seasons during the mid-2000s.
Bonderman first suffered through thoracic outlet compression syndrome that caused a blood clot in his shoulder in 2008. He also went through Tommy John surgery.
Now healthy, he's is trying to latch on with the Seattle Mariners, but his efforts thus far have not been pretty.
Bonderman has allowed five runs on five hits in just three innings of work thus far for a 15.00 ERA. He could be given a shot to work out the rust in the minors, considering he hasn't pitched since 2010. But that rust won't be worked out in the majors if he continues struggling.
St. Louis Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal
The St. Louis Cardinals want Trevor Rosenthal to be a starter, despite his excellent work as a reliever last year and in the postseason.
Rosenthal is in a fight to win the final starting spot in the rotation, along with Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. So far, he hasn't delivered.
In two outings thus far, Rosenthal has posted a 9.00 ERA, giving up five runs on seven hits in five innings. Both Kelly and Miller have looked sharp thus far, giving them the clear early edge.
Tampa Bay Rays: Shelley Duncan
In his six-year career with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, outfielder Shelly Duncan never quite blossomed into the slugger many thought would have a solid career in the majors.
Duncan was not invited back by the Indians after struggling with a .203 average last season. The Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a minor league deal, hoping he could possibly provide some pop in a lineup in need of power.
Duncan has hit just .167 in seven Grapefruit League contests, giving credence to the thought that he's just not able to hit major league pitching with any kind of consistency.
Texas Rangers: Mike Olt
With nine strikeouts in 21 plate appearances and a .158 batting average, Texas Rangers infield prospect Mike Olt isn't giving much hope that he can be of help to the big club this season.
Olt and fellow prospect Jurickson Profar were both called up last season, making their major league debuts. It was hoped that Olt could help provide some of the offense left behind by the departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young.
That hasn't happened quite yet. Olt will get opportunities with several Rangers' regulars playing in the WBC. He needs to take advantage of that extra time.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Loewen
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder/first baseman Adam Loewen will be playing for Canada in the WBC. He'll do so in a completely different role after helping Canada as a pitcher in the inaugural WBC.
Loewen is attempting to make the transition from the mound to the offense. While he got some time with the Blue Jays in 2011, he hit just .188 with a homer and four RBI in 14 games.
Loewen's chances of making the team this year are slim to none—he isn't helping by hitting just .100 in early action before heading off to the WBC.
Washington Nationals: Bill Bray
After spending most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, reliever Bill Bray is now back with the organization that originally drafted him in 2004.
Bray is trying to latch on with the Washington Nationals in an attempt to give them a second lefty out of the bullpen.
Bray hasn't yet hit his stride, however, allowing two runs on five hits in two appearances. He was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday. The Nationals are hoping that Bray can help out at some point this season. But after missing most of last season with a groin injury, he has yet to work out those mechanics.
Bray can absolutely help the Nationals if he can find his way. He has held left-handed batters to a .218 batting average and .643 OPS through the years.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.